General Electric tipped to spark Invensys bidding war

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One of America’s biggest companies was yesterday reportedly mulling a rival bid for British industrial software firm Invensys in a move worth £3.5 billion.

General Electric’s interest threatens to trump last week’s takeover proposal from France’s Schneider Electric, which valued Invensys at £3.3bn.

One Sunday newspaper said an auction involving two of the world’s biggest industrial firms could drive up the price to 550p a share, equivalent to £3.6bn.

Invensys, which employs more than 1,100 people in the UK out of a total workforce of 16,500, develops technologies for a range of sectors including oil refineries, air conditioning and household appliances. The company sold its Wiltshire-based rail division to German high-speed train maker Siemens for £1.7bn in May.

The deal enabled Invensys to plug the deficit in its pension scheme, which had previously been seen as a stumbling block to takeover suitors.

Britain represents General Electric’s second-largest market, with more than 20,000 staff and about £7bn of annual revenues.

Invensys told shareholders on Friday that it had received a cash-and-shares approach from Paris-based Schneider Electric worth 505p a share and that it was “likely” to recommend a firm offer at that price.

Neil Veitch, manager of Scottish Value Management’s UK Opportunities Fund, had suggested that Schneider’s bid could flush out other suitors. He said: “Emerson, a large US industrial company, had previously expressed an interest in acquiring Invensys and we believed it may be tempted to return.”